Around three-lakh workers of various subsidiaries of Coal India Ltd struck work on Monday demanding higher bonus payout.

The strike, which comes close to the first anniversary of CIL's ‘historic' initial public offering (IPO) on October 18, 2010, is first instance in over a decade to be held on a sector-specific issue by CIL workers. At a time when various constraints has already hemmed in production, with CIL trailing its first-half target (April to September) by 16 million tonnes, a day's production loss is set to shave off another million tonne from its year's target of 452 million tonnes.

Official sources said that nearly 75 per cent of the 3.7 lakh people on rolls of the eight coal producing companies and units (as on July 1, 2011) struck work on Monday. They are demanding a bonus payment of Rs.23,500 against Rs.17,000 already paid by the management.

CIL's Director, Personnel, P. Mohandas, said that a 50 per cent increase in bonus was announced last year based on 2009-10 production. “Bonus was increased from Rs.10,000 in 2009-10 to Rs.15,000 in 2010-11 and to Rs.17,000 for 2011-12. It is not possible to sustain a 50 per cent increase year-on-year”.

CIL has also said that at a time when wage negotiations were on and no major increase in production was expected, further hikes in bonus payments were not possible. Two rounds of negotiations had already been held by the Joint Bipartite Council for the Coal Industry (JBCCI)-IX, a body formed for wage talks and efforts are on to finalise the wage increases soon. Various Central unions representing the workers have threatened to intensify their agitation on bonus if their demand was not met, even as the CIL management had decided to take a firm stand.

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